Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Survival of the Fittest

Often times when I think of contemporary Pakistan, I wonder what my life would be like, if I lived there. I think about the rich Pakistanis, in their fancy air-conditioned cars. I think about rich people driving hummers, in the narrow crowded streets of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. I think about the small percentage of Pakistanis who are rich, speak fluent and proper British English in their Anglicized-Indian accents. I think about the rich Pakistanis with better health care plans than the average American.

Then these words of Charles Dickens' come to mind.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I believe, the above passage effectively describes the contradictions one finds in Pakistan. Pakistan is full of surprises, inconsistencies, and cultural shocks. The only way to survive a trip is to shut off your brain, and leave it at home. My parents are from Pakistan, and after spending every single high school summer in Pakistan, I still cannot fully understand this country of pretences. I cannot seem to find my place in their society.

Last week, The New York Times did a cover piece about Pakistan. The article was centered around Pakistan's bleak future, under Asif Ali Zardari's presidency. The cover story had a picture of Asif Ali Zardari sitting in front of a big portrait of the country's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. On the table to his right, there rests a closeup framed photo of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto. On the table to his left, there is a framed photo of Ms. Bhutto taken at a political rally. In front of the said picture there is a Kleenex box, depicting Zardari's sensitivity. If anyone out there knows how to send out a pictorial message of patriotism, spousal devotion, and sensitivity, it is definitely the people who orchestrated this photo shoot.

Pakistan is a country where the rich are ostentatiously rich, and the poor are extremely poor. The weak government is corrupted. The country is in the epicentre of terrorism, both by the government and the Taliban insurgents.

The country is in shambles. Which prompts the question, what happens to failed nations? In 60+ years of its independence, Pakistan has never had a stable government. People are dying of hunger, infectious diseases, and illiteracy. The Urdu language, Pakistan's official language, is dying.

So, who should bail out Pakistan? What happens to failed states? Who comes to their rescue? Bush believed he was saving Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. G20 nations have their own economic problems to overcome. But, at the same time there are flattering nations like Pakistan, Haiti, Myanmar, which need our immediate focus. Or, is it all about survival of the fittest? Something I know Dwight Schtrute would attest to:

Michael Scott: No no no no, I mean have this kind of party. I look around and I see all these beautiful people who are alone on Valentine's and I think that there are other single people out there too. We just need to find 'em. There's a girl out there for all of us. Maybe even in this office park. There has to be a way to get all these lonely people together.

Dwight Schrute: What do you have in mind?

Michael Scott: I was thinking maybe like a mixer.

Dwight Schrute: Oh God that's a terrible idea.

Michael Scott: Old-fashioned meat market. I don't think it is.

Dwight Schrute: No. Lonely people mixing with one another? Breeding? Creating an even lonelier generation? You're not even allowing natural selection do its work. Pssh. You're like the guy who invented the seat belt.


Maria Sondule said...

Pakistan is in a very sad condition right now (not as in pathetic) and it definitely needs to be helped. However I fear that people will turn up their noses at that prospect because of the terrorists that are hiding there.
Ah, Dwight. THE Dwight. Will there ever be another as Dwightish?

Zany said...


I agree with you. I strongly believe, G20 nations have a responsibility to help these unfortunate nations, so they can become more independent, economically.

changetheworld360 said...

Love the Office quote. =D
*sigh* What has the world come to? The Middle East and the Third World are both very troubled categories of countries. It's difficult to say if we can ever find viable solutions to solve their problems.
I identify with your dilemma of visiting Pakistan. My parents are from China, so I've had similar experiences of not being able to fit into Chinese society when I visit. Not only is it b/c of the vast differences in culture, but also b/c people there always can sense that I'm a foreigner and subconsciously treat me differently. Being the only American in my entire family doesn't help either.

Zany said...


I find that no matter how much of an effort we make, relatives in Pakistan (and China in your case) always focus on the differences, in their attempt to classify us as outsiders.